Beth Bonini's Reviews > Millions

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
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's review
Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: children-s-book-club
Read in April, 2012

This is one of those children's books that seems to be operating on two levels. Although I do think it would appeal to the more intelligent readers in the 10-13 age group, a lot of the humour and commentary is probably aimed more at an adult level of understanding. (The real estate and financial commentary of the protagonist's older brother, Anthony, is one example that comes to mind.)

There are two major plot points: Damian (the protagonist) and Anthony are trying to cope with the recent death of their mother, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out how to spend a rather large sum of money that has come their way. The money has an expiration date, because it is actually a "retired" currency. (Although the book is set in England, the premise is that the English pound is being switched over to the euro.) The boys quickly learn some lessons in basic economics: for one thing, how difficult it is to spend a large amount of cash (particularly when you have to keep it a secret). There is also an interesting lesson in inflation in the school yard, not to mention several good examples of the corrupting influence of money.

As contrast to all of that filthy lucre, Damian is obsessed with the ideas of goodness and excellence. One of the focuses of that obsession has become an interest in saints -- the lives of which populate both his imagination AND several of the key scenes in this book. (It is a mostly realistic book, but there are a few "magically realistic" scenes: for instance, when the "real" Joseph takes Damian's place in the nativity play; when Peter explains how the loaves and the fishes story really took place; when Damian speaks to his dead mother.) Overall, it is a very quirky book -- in terms of voice, style, content, pretty much everything. I loved the poignant humour in it, and I thought that there was an unexpected amount of philosophical depth.
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